LEBANON, Ind. - A team in Boone County is using a new tactic to help people struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. The goal is to keep addicts out of the emergency room or jail and into treatment.
Roughly 200 inmates are shuffling through the Boone County Jail. It is likely 7 out of 10 of them will commit another crime.
The Boone County Sheriff's Office believes at least half of their inmates struggle with addiction. Deputy Tanner Long used to work at the jail. Now, he is out on the street trying to make sure people do not end up behind bars.
"I am not here to get them in trouble," Long said. "I am just here to help."
Long is a member of Boone County's Quick Response Team. Long, paramedic Travis Stevens, and Integrative Wellness therapist Johnny Wilson check on people who overdosed on drugs or alcohol within the last week.
After going through a list of past overdose runs, the team drives around Boone County and knocks on doors. They bring information on treatment right to their door step.
The Quick Response Team launched almost a year ago. They have knocked on dozens of doors since. They said most accept treatment if they find the person.
The team visited Derreck Coffman at his apartment earlier this year after he drank too much and passed out. The Quick Response Team said most of their runs involve alcohol.
"I was kind of relieved to hear what he had to say because that is the closest I came to getting answers on what to do," Coffman said.
For a year, Coffman said he drank a fifth a day. Now he goes to weekly meetings and he is more than 5 months sober.
"This is the longest I have been sober since I started trying to quit in February 2018," he said.
Long believes drug overdoses are under reported.
"They are just afraid of having law enforcement present because they are afraid of getting in trouble," Long said.
These three men of the Quick Response Team are not here to punish anyone. They are here to help because they too have been impacted by addition. Wilson said he suffered from a substance use disorder for about 30 years of his life.
"I think it is my life calling to help people who suffer from substance use disorders," Wilson said.
Stevens, a paramedic with Witham Health Services, said his older brother is in recovery to combat his addiction to multiple substances, including heroin. Long said he grew up with a father who struggles with an addiction to prescription medication.
This is what fuels them to meet every week. They want to find other families they can help before it is too late.
"Had we not been there on those encounters to try to get them into services, it is anybody’s best guess whether or not they would be here today," Wilson said.
They are offering help to save more lives.
"If we can have a part in that success then that is awesome. Then we have done our job," said Long.
A state grant originally funded this project. It also supported the launch of Quick Response Teams in five other counties.